Sunday, April 21, 2024

Dortchs leadership aids freshmen

September 13, 2002
Freshman tailback Tyrell Dortch (34) get tackled by Wisconsin junior defensive back Jamar Fletcher (2) during the game in Spartan Stadium on Saturday. Wisconsin beat MSU 17-10. —

Tyrell Dortch has reason to be frustrated at football. But he’s not.

When the MSU secondary lost four players last season, Dortch, a tailback, filled in at cornerback, and it almost crippled him.

After crunching two bones in his leg while attempting to break up a touchdown pass against Wisconsin he knew his chances of playing again - were slim.

Less than a year later, he’s out of the hospital, running beside his teammates in practice and watching games from the sidelines. His 40-yard-dash time is down to 4.7 seconds, his cutting ability is slowly returning, and all in all, he said he’s about 80 percent recovered.

“It’s not like I’m healthy and they just aren’t playing me,” he said. “It’s still hard to go out there. But I have to accept my role and just cheer for the other guys and know that I’ll be back next year.”

In the meantime, he has been giving few words of wisdom for freshman tailbacks David Richard and Jaren Hayes.

After two games, they’re making themselves known and have amassed nearly identical numbers: Richard has 114 total rushing yards and a score, and Hayes has 113 yards and a score.

But Dortch said he still has plenty to say to his “young guns.”

“They have some tremendous talent,” he said. “But I’ve been where they are, as freshmen, so I feel like I can help them out.”

During practice, Dortch said he’ll pull the two tailbacks aside to explain plays or offer advice on reading defenses.

Hayes, who studies film in his free time, said he appreciates the helping hand.

“The first couple of weeks, he’d pull me aside and say, ‘You’re young, don’t make a mistake,’” Hayes said. “He’d tell me not to put my head down, things like that. I try to make him happy.”

The support is important as the MSU running game tries to earn the respect of post-T.J. Duckett skeptics, Richard said.

“We read stuff in magazines that says MSU doesn’t have a run game,” Richard said.

Richard added he and Jaren want to prove the critics wrong and with Dortch’s guidance its possible.

After his unexpected recovery, everyone seems to believe in Dortch, including himself. He said he knows his injury happened for a reason, and this may be it - to help younger players and realize his own potential.

He’s not afraid of getting hurt again. But if he does, it won’t be the end of the world, he said.

“Injuries happen out of nowhere, and now I just have to go out there and do what I can do,” he said. “But if I get hurt again playing football, it’s going to be as a tailback, playing what I want to play.”

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